Friday, January 26, 2024

A Look Back At Richard Hornberger, The Author Of MASH

I watched an episode of MASH on METV last night. 

The show was funny, and I laughed a couple of times, but the TV series was nowhere near as funny and clever as the Richard Hornberger (seen in the below photo) MASH novel or the 1970 Robert Altman film.

I first saw the film MASH in 1971 when I was an 18-year-old sailor serving on the USS Kitty Hawk as the aircraft carrier performed combat operations on “Yankee Station,” in the South China Sea, off the coast of North Vietnam. 

A lot of the older officers and senior enlisted hated the film, as they saw it as an anti-Vietnam War message, even if the film portrayed the Korean War.  

Although I was a fervent anti-communist and supported the Vietnam War – I thought we should have gone all out to win the war – I loved the film. 

I thought it was funny and irreverent, like other service comedies that preceded it.   

I bought the book, MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, soon after we returned home from Southeast Asia. I liked Richard Hornberger’s classic satirical novel even better than the film. 

Richard Hornberger (seen in the above photo in South Korea in front of the tent famously known as the "Swamp"), wrote the slim novel under the pen name Richard Hooker in 1968. 

Hornberger served as an Army doctor in a MASH unit during the Korean War, and according to those who knew him, he based the wise-cracking and irreverent character Hawkeye Pierce on himself.  

Richard Hornberger, who died in 1997 when he was 73, liked the film, and he liked actor Donald Sutherland’s portrayal of Hawkeye Pierce (seen in the above photo), although he hated the actor’s long hair, which a soldier in the Army would not have.  

He disliked the TV series, as actor Alan Alda and the producers used the comedy show as an antiwar allegory against the Vietnam War - even more than the film. 

The author, a political conservative, said he was not against the Korean War (or the Vietnam War), but as a doctor and draftee, he laughed at the nonsense he encountered in the Army. 

I watched the TV show, as it was often funny (I loved Harry Morgan's Colonel Potter character), but I too disliked the cheap shots at the U.S. military, while they never once condemned the brutal and dictatorial North Koreans, who invaded South Korea and started the war. 

You can watch three clips from the Robert Altman film with Donald Sutherland as Hawkeye, Elliot Gould as Trapper John, Tom Skerrett as Duke, Robert Duval as Frank Burns, and Sally Kellerman as "Hot Lips" via the blow clips:

Donald Sutherland,Elliott Gould,Tom Skerritt in M*A*S*H - martini (

MASH (2/5) Movie CLIP - Sayonara to Frank Burns (1970) HD - YouTube

MASH (4/5) Movie CLIP - A Shower With Hot Lips (1970) HD (

Mash 1970, Football - YouTube

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